A few months ago I wrote what can only be described as a full-blown love letter to one of my favourite bands around at the moment. I am going to try not to let myself become quite so involved this time, but it’ll be hard because I am almost uncontrollably enthusiastic about them. Spring Offensive are about to release their first album Young Animal Hearts, and as album launches they have just played two shows, one in hometown Oxford and the other in London. They were on consecutive nights in The Cellar and The Sebright Arms respectively. I went to both.
Spring Offensive are one of my top live bands ever. I may be caught in a bit of a post-offensive rose-washed haze, but a euphoric haze like this is rare. Both live and on record they’re a combination of a few very potent ingredients. There is real emotion, a meticulously crafted sound that represents exactly where indie should be looking to go, and wonderful musicianship. This provides the vessel for their songs – which I will get onto later.
To try to single out high points in the live set would feel discriminatory. Amidst the ebbs and flows, the moments of calm, and the frenetic highs there was a level of mesmerised enjoyment and appreciation from a crowd that shared a feeling of being amidst something in its infancy, but which was set for a spectacular spurt in growth.
Part of the crowds’ enthusiasm comes from the accessibility of the majority of Spring Offensives lyrics, and subject matter. This revolves more often than not around the strains of independence and the largely mundane struggles of everyday life. When you can sing along to a song that actually means something, and that speaks truthfully about an issue that may really affect you, then it comes out with a level of conviction that’s impossible to muster for the contrived and clichéd metaphors that drape themselves over most songs. The songs sound just as good onstage and, like a book being read by the author, are shown with the visible feeling that they were written with.
Spring Offensive have struck the balance between synth and guitar – electronic and natural, perfectly. Synthesised sounds are used with huge effect, rather than as a statement. A good example of this is the opening to new song Bodylifting that includes a sampled orchestra to add warmth and theatre to the melodic stabs that open the song. They aren’t east London ‘dick heads’ that crudely spread synths on their music so that they can legitimise their lens-less glasses. This feeling of the music being ‘real’ runs through everything they do, and couldn’t be clearer than during a live performance.
One of the truths that I have understood through my life is that an album on which every song is great is an exceptionally rare thing. Even most of my favourite albums have a song or two that I think it could do without. Well, would you know it… not on Young Animal Hearts! This is eleven songs through which a full play won’t suffer a single apologetic skip.
The songs are catchy, but not obvious. The production is clean, but not boring, and the songs have a poppy edge without feeling cheap. You’re taken from opener Not Drowning But Waving – a slow building and moody track that ends triumphantly with distorted guitars, harmonies and a cascading open high-hat, into the thump and groove of track two Bodylifting. We then move into the spookier Hengelo (The Boatshed filmed a live version of this song in an abandoned house in London), which tells the story of a boy that runs away from civilisation and denies any knowledge of his identity. Going darker is The River, which glides through pulsating, bass heavy, choruses into a spiraling finale that feels almost System of a Down like in its ethereality. Speak contains two of the great moments of the record. One is the warmest of warm throbbing guitar strums that introduces the first chorus - the other is the most infectious chorus on the album. “I will speak now of forever hold my tongue” is repeated in a way that makes singing along a subconscious inevitability.
Just buy the album(Out 10th March 2014). If it doesn’t do it for you then please get in contact and I will write a contemptuous email of apology, and an explanation of why you are wrong.